Keeping Food Moving
Reflections from the field: October
"If we didn't have the infrastructure we wouldn't have been able to pull this off" Rod tells me during our informal office catch-up. The food box delivery truck in previous months has been able to stay for the duration of the distributions at the Piscataquis County Ice Arena, allowing volunteers the ability to pack inside the truck. However on this day, the trucker said he had to be at the Canadian border by 2:15. There was no way he'd be able to wait. The PRFC team was ever-grateful for the show of volunteers that were able to pack produce on-site. Rod's word for the distribution? "Non-stop."
PR Food Center was the recipient of 16 pallets of produce from Delaware. Of that, a total of 13 pallets were distributed. Rod estimated that it was 10 pallets of squash and 3 pallets of potatoes.
The contents of the boxes included a variety of meat, dairy and produce. Each household received a gallon of 2% milk.
A few weeks ago Erin brought in the tally sheets from October's distribution. The tally sheets are pretty simple. Four columns reading: "Town, # in household, # under 18 and # over 60". This information is what we use to provide quantitative data, and it helps us note patterns of need from our communities.
Erin and Steve had already started an excel sheet. But for the next couple of hours, all you could hear in the office was the sound of Erin reading and me quickly typing. "Brownville 4, 2,0. Dover-Foxcroft 4, 2, 0. Brownville 2, 1, 0. Dexter 2, 0, 2".
We both realized that we were entering in a bit more than just numbers. We could ascertain that there are a solid amount of single-parent households. Data such as 3 in the household, and 2 under 18 years old, reflect this.
Erin noted patterns also. "And it looks like there's a fair number of grandfamilies out there. We can't be absolutely sure but when we see numbers that tell us that a household has 2 children and 2 adults over 60, we're guessing that's a grandfamily."
During our October special distribution, 1877 people were served. 516 were under 18 (27%) and 567 were over 60 (30%). In total, 704 households were served that day.
Reflections from the field: November
We're still crunching our numbers from November's distribution on Tuesday 11/24 and will make those public as soon as possible.
This month the food boxes came from the USDA in partnership with a food distributer in Maryland. "Lancaster Foods of Maryland" provided 5lb protein, 5lbs of dairy, 1/2 gal milk, 12lb produce + potatoes + buttercup squash. Each box contained a variety. Many had strawberries, hotdogs, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and cranberries, chicken or shredded chicken or meatballs.
Steve had a feeling going in this month that there was a chance the traffic might get gummed up due to the rushes of cars that were there far before 1pm. He quickly implemented a 5 lane system to alleviate potential jams at the entrance of the ice arena.
Overall, the distribution was smooth and efficient. Some folks heard about the distribution from word of mouth. Others, through social media. Some, happened to be at the right place at the right time.
For many, this was the first time they had ever been through a food line. Comments like, "Ok, so what do I need to do? This is my first time." Or, reflexively telling us the first and last name of people they were picking up for. Or reaching for the glovebox for identification, before hearing that all we needed was for them to tell us the town and household makeup. And especially, that they simply have a good day. We've written about this phenomenon before. There is no reason for anyone to feel they have to prove themselves to get something to eat.
We are so grateful for our volunteers who have been able to be available regularly for these special "mega" distributions. Truly, we couldn't have pulled it off without this help.
If you attended this distribution, or volunteered for us, we welcome your perspective and experience! You can always send your insights and feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call and tell us about it at (207) 802-8230.